Wednesday, 16 November 2011

GUEST WRITER: Elizabeth Little talks Sculpture by the Sea

Gary Dermidjian, Do Not…  

Sculpture by the Sea
Bondi to Tamarama walk: November 3- 20, 2011
Well it’s that time of year again. Time to don hats and sunscreen, time to get sand between the toes and possibly bindi –eyes in the feet, time to dodge the joggers and head east to one of this city’s  most spectacular cliff walks and see if the sculpture can compete with good old mother nature.  Now in its 15th year, Sculpture by the Sea (SxS) attracts crowds in the hundreds of thousands. This sometimes makes it hard to actually see the art as you can easily be swamped by the crowds on the narrow cliff paths.  Although with 109 works on display this year, it’s guaranteed that you’ll see at least some of them.
A confession of sorts- I love Sculpture by the Sea. I love the way it heralds the start of summer, I love the way the art mingles with the natural beauty of the cliffs and the ocean, and the way that people flock to see it and interact with the sculpture on display. I love its popularist nature. I love the way that formalist sculpture gets to stand side by side with the figurative and lyrical works, and that somehow they all make sense. I love the way that people (and the local dogs ) interact with the works in a way that they wouldn’t be able to in a museum setting. And I love the sense of humour that is evident in some of the works. That is always my aim at SxS – to see something that makes me laugh, something which makes me marvel at the skill and artistry of the maker, and something which is so much a part of the cliff walk that you cannot imagine it anywhere else . 
Keizo Ushio, Moebius In Space Planet.
Byeong Doo Moon, I have been dreaming to be a tree... II.
This year I found all three and quite a lot more, including a (probably) unintentional SxS theme colour.   Formalist metal sculptures by Sir Anthony Caro, Ron Robertson Swann, Philip Spelman, Dion Horst, Bert Flugelamn, and  Kashell Robertson Swann were all shades of red, either through the application of paint or the rusting of metal.  Red again was the colour for Chen Wen Ling’s oversized smiling naked man in Tamarama Park and Wang Shugang’s  Meeting I,  a group of life sized men crouching in a circle in St Mark’s Park.  The Easter Island inspired heads in Steve Croquett’s  Heads Up, looking right at home on Tamarama Beach,  were a rusted red. 
Steve Croquett, Heads Up.
Some of the more lyrical works this year included Byeong Doo Moon’s I have been dreaming to be a tree …II in which the antlers of a metal deer extend skywards in the manner of tree roots. Keizo Ushio’s Mobius In Space , made of carved stone was also beautiful to behold. Spirals seem to be forever associated with cliffs and the ocean, and this year turned up in Alison Lea Cousland’s II:II, a row of four carved glass columns that managed to convey ideas of strength and delicacy.  Dave Horton’s Three Madrigals  was one work in three parts, each complete in itself yet somehow more when considered together. 
Wang Shugang, Meeting I
Gary Dermidjian’s Do Not… made me laugh, and then consider the implications of the signage and the imposition of rules and regulations in everyday life. Based on the generic ‘do not touch the sculptures’ provided each year by SxS, Dermidjian’s work supersized the normally small signage. And yes, I did touch it!  I hope Gary approves.
Hannah Kidd, Toads on Tour.
Sculpture Inside was a disappointment. Located in a marquee in St Mark’s Park it displays smaller works that would be easily overlooked or even damaged in the outdoor exhibition.  The works were unimaginatively displayed in rows, which made for easier crowd control but lessened the viewing experience. It felt less like an exhibition and more like a salesroom. Liked one of the big sculptures outside but no where to put it at home? Have a look at Sculpture Inside and find a smaller and more affordable piece.  
Alison Lee Cousland, II:II.
Belinda Villani, The Predators in the Park.
Back outside in St Mark’s Park people were interacting with the sculpture in various ways. Some were having their photos taken framed by Jane Gillings gilt picture frame provenance. Small children were trying to walk through the architectonic spaces of Paul Sellwood’s winning Paradiegma Metaphysics, while other’s were oogling Ken Unsworth’s giant skeleton atop a ladder and trying to work out just how it stayed upright. Belinda Villani’s straw pride of lions, The Predators in the Park, and Hannah Kidd’s metal couple and toads, Toads on Tour were also proving to be a hit with the families!  But my favourite would have to have been Rod McRae’s Time Team  style installation, The Search for Alice, the elephant who was once the star attraction of Tamarama’s Wonderland and who was allegedly shot and buried somewhere on the beachfront. How much more site specific can you get?
This year’s Sculpture by the Sea was all that I wanted. There was some great art, some fun art and some that I didn’t really understand at all and it provided some stimulating discussion points at a BBQ in Bronte Park. What more could you ask of an early summer Friday afternoon?

Elizabeth Little has a B. Art Theory (Hons)and M Art Admin, COFA UNSW. She lives and works in Sydney.

All images supplied by the writer.
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